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December 31, 2013 8:47 am

2013 a look back: Cardwell captured; PVHC moves ahead

Written by Tribune Staff

Hua Hin, Thailand, became an unlikely source of Powell news in 2013, when former Powell Valley Healthcare CEO-turned-fugitive Paul D. Cardwell was captured there.

Cardwell had fled the United States while facing more than a dozen federal felonies alleging he stole nearly $848,000 from Powell Valley Healthcare in 2011 and a similar amount from an Indiana hospital between 2003 and 2009.

Cardwell was the head of both health-care organizations at the times in question and, with the help of Michael J. Plake of West Lafayette, Ind., pretended the money was being used to recruit staff.

Cardwell and Plake had been allowed to remain free on unsecured bonds after being charged with the scheme in March 2012. But while Plake obeyed his conditions and was sentenced to 30 months in prison on May 6, Cardwell stole a family member’s passport and gave federal authorities the slip in late July 2012.

After 10 months at large, a tip to U.S. authorities led to Cardwell’s June 7 arrest at a gym in the Thai beach resort community of Hua Hin.

Cardwell has since been held in federal custody without bond. He pleaded guilty to three felonies in October and is set to be sentenced on Jan. 27 in Cheyenne.

A U.S. attorney has indicated Cardwell had an offer of 24 to 42 months of prison time on the table when he fled. It’s unclear what prosecutors will seek now.

On Feb. 7, Powell Valley Healthcare officials announced its insurers and management company, HealthTech Management Services, finished making the organization whole from the losses inflicted by Cardwell.

While Cardwell’s criminal actions took a hefty toll on PVHC’s bottom line, the organization also has had to overcome residual problems with morale, leadership and things left undone during Cardwell’s time as chief executive officer.

CEO Bill Patten has said the organization is making progress in hiring new medical providers (after lagging recruitment during Cardwell’s administration) and improving employees’ morale and effectiveness through its “Journey 2 Excellence.”

Work to update PVHC’s facility master plan is underway (something Cardwell told the PVHC board had been completed), and Patten and his leadership team also are working with a team from NextGen to resolve problems with the electronic medical records system, which was purchased belatedly under the leadership of an interim CEO.

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